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Star ballerina turned real estate agent’s social impact legacy

Melbourne real estate agent Simone Chin has done many things over her lengthy career.

After being a professional ballet dancer from the age of nine, she worked in the Hollywood film industry before embarking on what has been a very successful career in property sales.

Another thing she can tick off the list? Philanthropy.

Although Ms Chin has always been community minded and supported local causes, she has now gone a step further by committing to donate 10 per cent of the profits of the real estate agency she founded one year ago, Atria Real Estate, to the charity Girls From Oz.

It’s a legacy this inspirational woman wants to see carried on for a long time to come.

“I love real estate so I see myself doing it for as long as I can, but I do want to set my agency up to continue with its social impact legacy,” Ms Chin said.

The path to real estate was diverse

At the age of just nine, Ms Chin became a professional classical ballet dancer – while also dabbling in contemporary jazz. 

She did extras work with the Australian Ballet Company and danced on shows such as Hey Hey It’s Saturday.

She went to the Royal Ballet School in London when she was 16 and danced in ballet and contemporary dance companies in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Simone Chin was a professional ballerina but these days is the star of Melbourne's Bayside property market. Picture: Atria Real Estate

In the late 1980s, at the age of 30, Ms Chin decided it was time for a change and returned to Australia, where she started teaching aerobics at a gym in Melbourne’s South Yarra.

It was frequented by celebrities, and during her time there Ms Chin trained the likes of comedy actress Magda Szubanski and Australian film director, producer, and screenwriter Fred Schepisi.

She seized an opportunity to become Mr Schepisi’s assistant, which saw her immersed in the Hollywood film industry, working on movies including Six Degrees of Separation, IQ, and Fierce Creatures through the 90s.

“I had some really, really fun times travelling around the world making films and working at a studio level,” said Ms Chin.

“When I came back to Australia, I was looking for a job – I worked at Malthouse Theatre for five years in the 2000s and become the theatre administrator there. After a little while, I was looking for something else and I just fell into real estate.

“The best thing about real estate is that all those previous skills and disciplines and communication jobs I had in the past all rolled into one and the experience fabulously lent itself to sales.

“I loved it straight away. It was a really great segue for me.”

A new chapter in real estate

After having an interesting introduction to real estate, starting her career during the Global Financial Crisis, Ms Chin has now been in the industry for about 13 years.

Not only is she the director of her own agency in Brighton, where she has plenty of repeat business and sells everything from retirement village units to family homes worth up to $7 million, but she is the only female auctioneer in the area, she said.

Ms Chin first began working as an agent in an area of Melbourne she wasn’t overly familiar with – in Chelsea and Frankston.

Simone founded her own agency a year ago and will give a portion of its profits to a charity assisting girls in regional communities. Picture: Atria Real Estate

“What I really liked about it was that I had always done jobs that had been 24/7 so I was used to working hard,” she recalls.

“I had to work so diligently to get a listing in those areas.

“When I finally moved to an area I grew up in – the Bayside area of Melbourne – in 2012 it was amazing how much easier it could be.

“I had roots in the neighbourhood and people knew me and I was very much part of the furniture, so it was a really good move.”

After working for a few real estate agencies across the Bayside, where Ms Chin said she decided to fill a niche by going out on her own.

The goal was to create an agency where the focus was on the client, rather than on the sales figures, and give vendors in the area the best possible experience when selling their homes.

“I thought that more of a wholistic approach was required, especially in this area where there are a lot of Baby Boomers and people who may not have bought and sold for decades,” Ms Chin said.

“I want to support clients along the journey – not just with the nuts and bolts of the schedule of the campaign but also if they need any other support around preparing their house for sale or for the next side of the journey where they are looking for their next home.

“I have found explaining the process and having someone who is emotionally there for them was a great benefit.”

In the first year of running her own agency, Simone has been able to donate $10,000 to Girls From Oz for its performing arts programs. Picture: Girls From Oz

A charitable focus

Something else that sets Atria Real Estate apart from other agencies is Ms Chin’s generous commitment to donate 10 per cent of the agency’s profits to Girls From Oz.

It’s a charity that gives youth in remote communities access to high-quality performing arts education, using it as a hook to encourage participants to regularly attend school and experience the benefits of sustained engagement in educational activities.

So far Atria has raised $10,000 for Girls From Oz, with the aim now to triple that figure.

Girls From Oz aims to engage and re-engage young women living in some of the most at-risk communities in regional Australia. Picture: Girls From Oz

The desire to contribute to worthy causes and better the lives of young women throughout the country via her work was one of the key reasons Ms Chin started Atria.

“I wanted to leave a legacy and it needed to be something bold,” she said.

“I felt the dollars that I’ve been donating to Girls From Oz could make such a profound change to those girls’ lives and to the communities they’re in. It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

“Having had the background of performing arts, I know how much it can really positively affect your life in terms of discipline, self-esteem, self-drive, and self-confidence.

“I left school at 14 and basically had my career in the world and I learnt through lots of different experiences, but I had many, many kind, supportive and fabulous people reaching out a hand to me.

“That kept me moving forward at all times through my life, and so I just feel that now is the time for me to be that person for those girls.”

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